The perils of being busy

We’ve all heard ourselves say “I’ll get to [X] as soon as I finish what I’m doing”, and realizing a while later (sometimes days) that we never got around to [X]. Sometimes it means that you simply have to do things on your personal time, like grade papers during the weekends or at home, but sometimes waiting to do something later can have terrible results, especially when it involves leaving moths in a relaxing chamber.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

After leaving about a dozen specimens from recent trips to the Andes and two other collecting sites in a relaxing chamber for over a week (because “I was just finishing cooking/grading/cleaning and I’d pin them right after”), I finally sat down and saw how they were, expecting them to be in a somewhat damaged, but recoverable state. Nothing was further from the truth. Mold had grown on every specimen, making them look like alien teddy bears.

There's an Automeris moth in this pic, I promise!

There’s an Automeris moth in this pic, honest!

There was something cool about this, though. I would have thought that spending a week in the same humid, closed container would mean that I’d see the same molds on every specimen,  but no. I saw at least 5 different ones, and even moths collected at the same light trap on the same day grew different molds. I’d like to see if there are any papers regarding fungus specificity in Lepidoptera. The molds also appear to be body part-specific; some grow mainly on the abdomen, others mainly on the thorax. I’m aware that I only have 12 infected specimens in a single relaxing chamber, so it’s too early to draw conclusions, but it’s still interesting to see:

Localized mold

Localized mold

The bottom line is: Don’t pin tomorrow what you can pin today. Mold will attack if you let it, so always remember to pin specimens within 24 hours of leaving them in a relaxing chamber (unless you really want the alien teddy bears).


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